Tag Archives: Movember

Movember Mustache: The Frank Zappa

29 Nov

Welcome to Movember! Our last mustache of the series is an ode to a man who himself died of prostate cancer, known for both his complex and satirical music, and his mustache-soul patch combination, Mr. Frank Zappa.

Zappa, an Italian-American with Greek and Arab heritage, emerged in the late 1960s as an anti-authoritarian musician, critical of American society and opposed to formal education as much as he was to organized religion.

In 1966, Zappa founded The Mothers of Invention and recorded Freak Out!, an album that, according to  Barry Miles in Zappa: A Biography, immediately established Zappa as a “radical new voice in rock music, providing an antidote to the relentless consumer culture of America”.

The infamous tobacco-smoking, coffee-drinking, multi-faceted musician was one of the most influential musicians in rock and roll history.  The 2004 Rolling Stone Album Guide says Zappa “dabbled in virtually all kinds of music—and, whether guised as a satirical rocker,  jazz-rock fusionist, guitar virtuoso, electronics wizard, or orchestral innovator, his eccentric genius was undeniable.”

From belches to bicycles, Zappa loved sound and organizing sound, and during his amazingly busy career, recorded over 60 albums as a solo artist and with the Mothers until his death in 1993.

Frank Zappa’s facial hair is recognizable enough to stand on its own.

In one of his last interviews, he said, “give a guy a big nose and weird hair and he’s capable of anything.”  Frank Zappa’s unique sound and style remain a stronghold in rock music, and his iconic mustache and rectangular soul patch are unmistakably his – Frank Zappa was a freak in his own right.

For more Zappa stuff, visit Zappa.com.

TIP: When you shave your mustache off on Saturday, trim the long whiskers with an electric clipper or scissors before taking the razor to yer lip. For inspiration: watch a guy lose his 45 year old mustache!

Movember Mustache: The Hitler

15 Nov

Welcome to Movember! This year, we’re doing a famous mustache series. For our mid-Movember Mustache, the Toothbrush, 2 -3 centimeters of whiskers, synonymous with one of the most criminally insane minds of modern history, Adolf Hitler.

The Toothbrush was a popular American mustache style starting in the nineteen-teens, brought to life by entertainers of the day like Oliver Hardy and Charlie Chaplin. Once brought to Germany, the younger generation immediately took it on to replace the full ornate styles like the Kaiser, the Handlebar, and the Walrus, worn by their fathers.

Hitler, 1916.

Why Hitler took the Toothbrush style on in the first place has been argued for decades. Some believe that the neat, efficient style of the period was simply adopted by Hitler out of personal preference. His sister-in-law claimed that it was she, with her dislike of his bushy, unruly mustache that urged him to cut it.

It’s now understood that Hitler preferred a fuller Prussian style as a younger man during World War 1, but had to compact his mustache to wear a gas mask, when the British developed mustard gas during the Great War. Toothbrush mustache or not, Hitler’s gas mask proved ineffective – he was gassed and temporarily blinded in 1918.

Hitler’s “ugly slit”.

Alexander Moritz Frey, who knew Hitler in the Bavarian infantry, explained his first impression of him: “At that time he looked tall because he was so thin. A full moustache, which had to be trimmed later because of the new gas masks, covered the ugly slit of his mouth.” (Source: The Telegraph)

After the war, it’s no surprise that the Toothbrush mustache style disappeared; to this day, it is the infamous symbol of one of the most evil minds the world has ever witnessed, whipping up the same emotional response as seeing a swastika.

Strangely, the Hitler style ‘stache hasn’t died out entirely. Zimbabwe’s dictator, Robert Mugabe, wears a mutation of the Hitler, called a “Philtrum”, named after the place it grows, in the groove of the upper lip.

Mugabe started out okay, voted into power in 1980 and at first, “delivered on promises of peace, reconciliation with the white minority, and social development.” (Source: PBS) But as history has shown us, Mugabe terrorized, abused, and murdered his own people.

“Mugabe must be viewed as the 21st century Hitler because of the deaths and suffering of Zimbabweans under his rule,” Anglican bishop of Pretoria said in 2008. Another South African bishop explained Mugabe was a “person seemingly without conscience or remorse, and a murderer”. Sound familiar?

I found in my travels a story of Frank Spisak, convicted Ohio murderer who, in 1982, shot three people to death, and wore a Hitler mustache at his trial. For you old school Spiderman fans, J. Jonah Jameson, Peter Parker’s angry, screaming boss at the Daily Bugle, out to squash the web-headed Spiderman, was another nasty figure who wore the Hitler style mustache.

Could the Hitler and pseudo-Hitler mustache styles have drawn out their delusional cruelty?

In his excellent 2007 Vanity Fair article, Becoming Adolf, Rich Cohen explains his take on the Toothbrush as being “the most powerful configuration of facial hair the world has ever known. It overpowers whoever touches it. By merely doodling a Toothbrush mustache on a poster, you make a political statement.”

But just when a pattern begins to form, along comes Michael Jordan.

No one but basketball star himself knows why he chose to wear this mustache for a 2010 Hanes underwear commercial, but he caused a furor when he sported the ‘stache of der Führer:

Ironically, the mustache helped to increase Hanes’ sales, according to CBS, but since Jordan’s been called on it, it hasn’t been seen since. No surprise there.

But it’s still not dead. British comedian, Richard Herring, sports a Toothbrush in his show, Hitler Mustache, to draw attention to voter apathy in the UK, and to see if he can associate the mustache style with something other than the leader of the Third Reich.

Herring admits that when he first grew the Hitler, he got paranoid and feared being assaulted by someone in the street, but eventually became comfortable with it for his paying audience and for a reclamation of the mustache style “as a political protest against the BNP (British National Party)”, saying he was “using the Hitler moustache to oppose fascism.” (Source: BBC)

Creating a positive connection with the Hitler mustache will take a lot of work. And many generations.

TIP: For those of you in mid-Movember mustache depression, check out this great Movember video for support from Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation)!

The scent of swag

8 Dec

Continuing with last week’s Movember theme, Gerry, whose moustache journey we documented, took me to the Movember gala on December 2 and it was so much fun!

Gerry's barber gave him a David Niven look and I rocked a fancy airbrushed Mo!

Many guys had already shaved by then but I was delighted to see how many got into the spirit of the moustache and came in character – there were cops, highway patrolmen, firefighters, a gang of bootleggers, general Mo freaks, and a very dashing French revolutionary soldier complete with bicorn hat and period uniform. Gerry had his Mo reshaped one more time and we did him up as though he were striding onto his yacht, so I matched his costume and we both had a look of nostalgic glam.

Mo-goers were given bags o’ swag containing men’s grooming products – deodorant,  shave gel, and a 5 – yes, 5-blade razor. I put my swag away with the rest of my men’s grooming stuff when I got home and didn’t think about it.

Then I started noticing something. When I walked into my living room, I could smell something odd, something I couldn’t identify. I decided that someone walked past my door wearing too much cologne. However, each time I walked into my living room, I could smell it again, so I hunted around and discovered that it was my bag of swag from the gala that was causing the stink! I was able to distinguish which grooming product was giving off the strong scent – the culprit was Mennen Speed Stick. Welcome to today’s topic.

Now, I want you to understand some things before I continue, readers:  1. I don’t want to sound like an ingrate because I appreciate that large companies are sponsoring Movember and promoting the fight against prostate cancer, and 2. I only use natural and unscented grooming products on my skin, therefore, I am highly sensitive to chemical fragrances, thus my picking up on the swag smell.

Ingredients: salt and gas

I’m going to share some of the research I have done on common men’s grooming products with you so as to educate you on the products you’re applying to your skin because whether you realize it or not, your skin is absorbing it.  Some of these ingredients may cause you to question the products you use because the ingredients themselves are questionable.

My information comes from websites that scientifically test grooming products: Good Guide, Cosmetics Info,  Skin Deep Cosmetics Database, and the David Suzuki Foundation.

Because I have taken from different sources, the ingredients listed below may or may not be present in the 2011 version of Speed Stick:

  • Water
  • Cyclomethicone: silicone oil
  • Denatured Ethanol: ethanol with chemical additives
  • Tripropylene Glycol: colourless, viscous liquid derived from petroleum
  • Dimethicone: anti-foaming and emollient agent, suspected environmental toxin
  • Propylene Glycol: colourless viscous liquid derived from natural gas
  • Phenyl Trimethicone: derived from silica, a natural component of quartz and opal
  • FDC Blue #1,  FDC Yellow #5 : synthetic dye produced from petroleum
  • Sodium Carbonate: sodium salt of carbonic acid
  • Sodium Chloride: salt
  • Sodium Stearate: salt of stearic acid, a naturally occurring fatty acid and cleansing agent (surfactant)
  • Sodium Sulfate:  sodium salt of sulfuric acid
  • Tetrasodium EDTA: used to decrease reactivity of metal ions that may be present in a product
  • Stearyl Alcohol: compound produced from stearic acid, a naturally occurring fatty acid; stabilizer, surfactant, fragrance
  • Dimethicone Copolyol: silicon-derived, used as a low-odor ingredient to mask other scents
  • Fragrance: not listed – more trouble ahead
If the above list isn’t enough to put you off entirely, let me sweeten the pot a bit.
Some of us react to these synthetic fragrance ingredients because they are irritants that we have an allergy or sensitivity to. I don’t need to tell you that I’m one of these people. As a sensitive person, I pick up and respond to scent easily – this isn’t always a good thing. Like the way a strong cologne can offend, personal care products can be just as disagreeable.
I was with a friend one night earlier this year who decided that his health food store deodorant was failing. He happened to have his gym bag with him that happened to contain a commercial deodorant (that could have been Speed Stick or perhaps Old Spice) and went off to the men’s room to apply it. Before he even got back to me, my eyes were overpowered and almost watering at the strong scent that he carried back from the bathroom with him. It took a long time to get the stink of the deodorant stick out of my nose.
The fragrance in Speed Stick is rated as a high hazard by Skin Deep Cosmetics Database, and associated with neurotoxicity and allergies/immunotoxicity. In Failing the Sniff Test: Chemicals in fragranced personal care products remain a mystery, The David Suzuki Foundation reports that fragrance mixtures can contain up to 3,000 chemicals
, and a single product can have dozens or even hundreds of chemicals in it!
Many of
unlisted ingredients 
 allergies, migraines, 
 symptoms. In laboratory 
 have been 
 effects. – David Suzuki Foundation
One of these alarming fragrance-boosting ingredients is Diethyl
DEP, widely 
 The presence of phthalates
 should be of particular concern to men because this substance is linked to hormone toxicity that can reduce sperm count and reproductive defects in the male fetus when the mother is exposed during pregnancy. Diethylphtalate are also associated with obesity and insulin resistance in men.
Alternatives to commercial deodorants are abundant but in my experience require trial and error to find the right one for you – I have several alternative brands that are just sitting in my bathroom because they just didn’t work for me. The one I like and stick with is a mineral salt roll-on, available at drugstores. Find good suggestions in Good Guide‘s top and bottom-rated deodorants and if you are concerned with animal testing (Mennen, who makes Speed Stick tests on animals), check the PETA site to see what companies don’t use questionable ingredients and test on animals.
Scent pollution
Many people have allergies to fragrance and yet fragrance continues to be poured into grooming products, among many other items. Both men and women are under the spell of corporate marketing that insists on strong unnatural chemical smells in their products (women’s products are just as bad as men’s – I have experienced young women running around the gym locker room  smelling like candy, and walking through the drug store fills my nose with gag-inducing smells of baby powder-scented tampons, cheap perfumes, and pungent, eye-watering shampoos). In the same way that commercial production adds excessive salt and oil to food products, I think that the producers of commercial grooming products are adding too much fragrance.
Try this experiment to prove it to yourself: put away your current scented grooming products (deodorant, shave product, moisturizer, shampoo, soap, etc.) and instead buy a small fleet of unscented products (maybe from the drug store, maybe from a health store). Use these unscented grooming products for 2 weeks, then bring out your former products. Smell them – how strong are these products to you now? Are you inclined to use them? How is the unscented world different and which do you prefer?

A month in the life of Mo

1 Dec

It’s December 1 – gentlemen, start your razors!

Movember is the month-long moustache-growing event to raise awareness and funds prostate cancer, an inititiative continuously gaining popularity and raising more funds to combat this men’s cancer.

This year, I wanted to look at Movember as a process, step by step, a week at a time, just to try to understand what it’s like to grow whiskers over your top lip. For some guys, the experience is an ordeal because not all men can grow a ‘stache and they end up walking around with patchy, generally unkempt things on their faces. For others, like my friend, Gerry (shown here),  it’s good times with a new facial feature because they can grow a moustache.  This year’s Movember post is meant to be something of a guide, perhaps an inspiration, for growing next year’s Mo, based on Gerry’s Movember experience. Let’s begin!

Day 1: Gerry starts the 'stache from scratch

November 1, 2011: Nature takes its course and Gerry lets ‘er rip on day 1, where he starts clean-shaven.

Week 2: the smudge of a Trucker looms

Gerry has a heavy beard and by the second week, his ‘stache is taking shape and making its presence known. He followed the nasolabial folds between his nose and his mouth as a shaving guide, but otherwise let it “grow wild”.

But it starts to itch; he starts touching it. Gerry says that when he eats, he forgets about the moustache but can feel something on his lip and assumes that it’s food. It’s the old cookie duster living up to its name.

By the time he got to week 3, Gerry’s ‘stache had become “important”, as if it were an entity of its own. He began taking care of it, grooming it, getting meticulous about it, and decided he could do with some help and wandered into Garrison’s Barbershop on Queen West for a shave and a moustache re-shape.

These are the steps Gerry’s barber took:

Is that a corpse? No, it's Gerry in the hot towel portion of his hot towel shave.

1. Oil applied to beard to soften the whiskers. (Oil makes shaving easier – softer whiskers = less drag. Try it yourself with shaving oil from The Real Shave Company, available at drugstores.)

2. Hot towels applied to face for 5 minutes. (Opens the pores, refreshes the skin.)

3. Shave cream applied with shaving brush. (Easier shave – whiskers are raised by the brush and suspended by shaving cream.)

4. Face shaved with a straight razor.  Visions of Sweeney Todd danced through Gerry’s head as he lay there with his throat exposed to the unknown barber holding a bare blade over him.

The relationship between a man and his barber is a unique one indeed, as Gerry noted. This intimate, 45 minute man-on-man relationship must be grounded in trust. Gerry’s experience with the barber was “relaxing and gentle”, and he felt pampered and cared for. Sounds nice, doesn’t it?

Arial view.

(There were actually 2 shaves involved here: the first one with the shaving cream using a clean blade that lightly scrapes the surface of the face, and the second one with a clear shaving gel to see missed patches and even the shave.)

5. Skin bracer applied to freshly-shaven skin. (“Pleasant and invigorating!”)

6. Cold towel applied to face to close pores.

$25 later, Gerry’s got a fresh face and a newly-shaped moustache. He’ll be back to Garrison’s for future shaves.

Week 3: Post-moustache re-carve.

Week 3: Gerry and his moustache are looking much better with a reshaping, even to the point of being attractive! (Oops, there goes my bias: I do not like the look of moustaches.) It is really amazing  how a trip to the barber can make your Movember so much more bearable – cool, even! A proper shave and shaping is a good step if you want to actually enjoy the whiskers instead of waiting for the end of the month when you can shave the bastard off.

Week 4: Gerry's moustache is a force to be reckoned with and getting scraggily again. Moustache maintenance is important and not for the lazy.

Week 4: Gerry’s ‘stache is getting unruly again!

Lucky thing this week concludes the moutstache-growing event, but not before another re-shape for Gerry and the fabulous Movember gala on Friday, where I hope to see some fabulous facial hair, but somehow, I’m sad to say, I doubt this.

Though guys are beginning to take their ‘staches seriously now, I’m still seeing Toronto men looking embarrassed every Movember. But lads, there’s no reason to walk around looking ashamed, you just have to learn to take care of your whiskers. It doesn’t have to be torture – iIf you’re going to grow a ‘stache for a month, have fun with it!

I’m seeing a lot of men who are emulating professional hockey players during the playoffs. Movember is not a reason to not shave for a month.  – Gerry

So let’s get into the spirit, men. Try investing $25 into yourself and visit a professional barber to help you rock a great, groomed Movember moustache next year instead of fighting with it, and be proud of your new little buddy.


18 Nov

Eighteen days ago, 110,860 Canadian men shaved their faces clean and began letting the whiskers over their lip go in support of Movember, a moustache-growing extravaganza to raise funds and awareness of prostate and testicular cancers. This event began in Melbourne, Australia to bring awareness to men’s cancers and to have a laugh by temporarily resurrecting the moustache (aka the “Mo”).

Movember gets bigger every year and I’m delighted to find that Canadian men have taken this initiative seriously and are really getting involved. According to the latest on the Movember website, Canadian men are leading in fund-raising – many individuals and teams from law firms, banks, and other businesses are supporting the cause and saying ‘no’ to steel under their noses for the month of November.

110,860 wonderful Canadian men are supporting the brotherhood in Movember – it warms my heart! 110,860 agents spreading the word and raising money for men’s cancers – brilliant! That gives us 110,860 newly-sprouted moustaches…uh, hooray.

On average, a man with a moustache touches it 760 times in every 24 hour period.

One of the Movember rules is to grow and groom the moustache. It seems to me that the best and most creative moustache groomers live in Australia, where Mos are carved and shaped into fantastical facial art. Unfortunately, I’m just not seeing the same thing in Toronto. Our guys are not holding up their end of the grooming deal and they look as though they’re in pain.

If I was a guy taking part in Movember, I’d embody the points of the Mo brotherhood, like a man who grows a Mo knows how to rock. When that time comes he likes his good times great and his volume turned to eleven! Yeah, that’s what I’d do. I’d take it over the top and grow a Salvador Dali just for the fun of it – it would be like wearing a costume every day!

So I think about how much fun a guy could have with a moustache, but I look around me and I see Toronto Mos looking like they just want to get it over with.  Most Toronto moustaches I’ve seen are flaccid, patchy, and ashamed of themselves.  I mean, I was out on Monday night (dinner and a super cool soul singer) and most of the guys I saw with moustaches had a look of embarassment to them, there wasn’t a lot of eye contact, and they kept their heads down.

I expect that despite the excitement of being involved in a cool fundraising event, growing a moustache must be humiliating. Take my friend Chris. He’s looking forward to December 1 when he can shave off what is turning out to be “the worst moustache ever worn by a homo sapien”:

This is one the one time of year when men who have no business sporting moustaches get to grow them without fear of being ostracized. Movember is like a get out of jail free card for any guy who’s been curious about how he’d look in moustache but was afraid the girls he hits on will think he looks like a convicted sex offender. “Hey, it’s Movember” you say, and people gloss over the possibly ill-advised strip of hair about your lip, in the same way they eventually gloss over costumes at a Halloween party.  (more)

Women want to support you whiskered warriors and we are empathetic towards your plight this month (though I don’t know how many of us want to put up with a ‘stache after Movember – I know I don’t). One option as suggested by asylum.com is that today, November 18, is Have Sex with a Guy with a Mustache Day. Asylum asks women of the world to use our vaginas to make a difference and “bone down with a dude that has a moustache”,  get your “cookie dusted”,  and “enjoy a guy who’s pencil-thin where it counts!” For those women taking part, remember, you’re not a whore if it’s for charity!

Fellas, you’ve done well and you’re almost through – only 12 more sleeps before you can take down the ‘stache (as savagely and as ruthlessly as you wish, but be sure to first trim the long whiskers then soften them with warm water and / or a facial scrub before you shave).  But while you are victoriously removing the 4-week hangover, feel good that you did something physically silly in the name of something serious, and collectively took another step toward keeping men healthy, now and in the future.

Thank you.